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Israeli military to restrict soldiers' Facebook accounts

Concerned with enemies infiltrating soldier's social media accounts, the Israel Defense Forces puts the kibosh on social networking for classified and sensitive units.

Official IDF Twitter account

Fearing that enemy forces are gathering information on Israeli soldiers from social media, the Israel Defense Forces has decided to ban social networking for some high-ranking soldiers and severely limit it for others.

The IDF is in the middle of drafting a "social networking code of ethics" that will ban the use of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media for all highly classified units, according to Israeli newspaper Haaretz. Other sensitive units, like pilots and intelligence officers, will be allowed to have social media accounts but won't be able to say they're soldiers or upload any photos showing themselves in uniform.

"Social networks are a means of communication and a means of creating experiences today," a senior officer in the Operations Directorate told Haaretz. "We don't intend on making the army impenetrable or shady, but we know there is potential for harm."

The officer said that much of the intelligence information collected on the IDF is nabbed from social networking sites. The military has also said that it discovered phony Facebook profiles made in the names of certain high-ranking commanders.

Israel is not the first country to be concerned with enemies infiltrating soldier's Facebook accounts. The Canadian military has warned soldiers about the dangers of posting personal photos and information on social-networking sites because Al Qaeda operatives could be watching. Australia has also cautioned its military about possible Taliban fighters spying on soldiers via Facebook.

Paradoxically, as an organization, the IDF is quite active on social media. Besides a big presence on Facebook, the military has also used Twitter to live-tweet skirmishes and battles against Palestinian Hamas fighters. In November, the IDF Twitter stream included the video recording of a missile attack that killed Hamas military leader Ahmed Jabari.

Social media has also caused quite a bit of embarrassment for the IDF. There have been several scandals of soldiers posting videos to YouTube and photos to Facebook showing abuse toward Palestinians. In 2010, a female soldier named Eden Abergil uploaded a photo to Facebook showing her smiling face in front of a group of blindfolded and bound Palestinian prisoners, according to Haaretz. And, in February, another soldier put a photo on Instagram showing a Palestinian boy in his sniper rifle's crosshairs.

The IDF's "social networking code of ethics" is scheduled to be released by the end of June.